The Bulgarian Association of Agricultural Land owners expects that the above trend will continue during the current year

During a seminar held in Velingrad on April 27th-28th 2018, the Chairperson of the Board of Managers, Stayko Staykov, announced that according to the Bulgarian Association of Agricultural Land Owners (BAALO), the minimum increase in agricultural price rates during last year was 5%. Mr Staykov believes that after the dynamic development in the period 2007-2015 (except the year 2009), a consistent trend of market stabilisation is observed. The most essential demand is for quality agricultural land in addition to some other factors defining its value such as terrain, land plot size, soil quality, irrigation potential, subsidizing, etc.

BAALO statistics, based on genuine transactions, indicate that Dobrich (1800 BGN per 0,1ha) and Silistra (1400 BGN per 0,1ha), represent the highest selling price. Pleven, Razgrad, Ruse and Shumen follow next with prices of 1200 BGN per 0,1ha. On the other hand, Gabrovo (400 BGN/0,1ha) and Kardjali (300 BGN /0,1ha) indicate the lowest selling price of agricultural land.

Land market stability and predictability will be evident during the current year, says Stayko Staykov. He expects that major transactions will be realised by investors aiming at the implementation of specific projects rather than being based on purchasing by random buyers with the sole aim of making profits.

BAALO Vice-Chairperson Galina Peycheva-Miteva pointed out that the main problems of Agriculture in Bulgaria are the lack of security, skilled labour and depopulation in rural areas. It is necessary that improvements in infrastructure and social conditions in the rural areas are made. Ms Peycheva-Miteva believes that Bulgaria’s priority in the new Common Agricultural Policy should be directed towards minimizing the difference in payments in the various EU member states. Otherwise, it will be impossible for Bulgarian farmers to remain competitive in a long-term perspective as their products will have a higher average cost of production than that of their European counterparts. During an ELO General Assembly in Brussels, as a BAALO representative, Ms Peycheva discussed her views as regards the future of farming which she believes is to be technologically developed, innovative and digitized.

The current challenges facing Bulgarian Agriculture in view of Brexit and the Common Agricultural Policy 2020 were also discussed by BAALO vice-chairperson Anatoly Georgiev. After the latest budget review, which annual base will finance CAP, it became clear that the budget is to be decreased by approximately 4 billion euro (above 6%). Currently CAP handles around 60 billion euro, of which Bulgaria is assigned about 1,3 billion euro, however, in two year’s time, the total amount will be reduced to 55-56 billion euro. Thus, Bulgaria will undertake the least amount of 50 to 100 billion euro due the above mentioned liability. Therefore, an urgent reshaping and redefining of Bulgaria’s agricultural policy is required, believes Anatoly Georgiev. He also mentioned that a change in direct payments is inevitable and they will be tied up to the size of the holding as well as to additional social and economic requirements, which will have negative consequences for Bulgarian agriculture.

Another crucial issue is the future of the “Second” CAP pillar, e.g. investment measures, financed by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD). In view of the future budget cuts, the expectation is for a bigger part of the private investment measures in rural areas to be substituted by the so called financial instruments (credit or guarantee), said Anatoly Georgiev. Therefore, the project will no longer be awarded grants and the beneficiary (the farmer) will have to repay the received financial aid though with lower interest rate than that of a bank loan.

Both pressing issues with Bulgarian agriculture, namely defragmentation of agricultural ownership and the lack of hydromeliorative infrastructure, must become the focus of Bulgarian authorities in the process of negotiating the new CAP, as well as in the ex-post national reforms, says Mr Georgiev.

On focus during the seminar were the processes of hydromelioration and consolidation in Bulgaria. Up till now, six consolidation projects have been successfully completed and 4 400 ha have been consolidated, announced Dr Kiril Stoyanov, a consolidation expert. The initial research stage of 15 (out of 16) undertaken projects has been completed.

In the past around 120 000 ha were irrigated. The irrigation systems authority responsible for the maintenance and the exploitation of the country’s hydromeliorative fond, currently manages 235 irrigation systems with the areas subject to irrigation being around 430 000 ha.

The total number of the actual irrigated land is 90 000 ha, of which 2/3 are unofficially irrigated, according to Mr Stoyanov. He believes that this is due to the lack of official register list of all dams and land water intake facilities in the country, a lack of an official governing authority as wells as the half-adequate to poor state of the main irrigation canals. He referred to EUROSTAT data pointing out that Bulgaria comes at the bottom of the chart indicating the amount of land supplied with modern irrigation systems in Europe.

The expert claims that Hydromelioration and Consolidation processes are directly linked. In Turkey, for example, an integrated process of consolidation and irrigation leads to an expense reduction of 41% in contrast to single investment projects whose owners do not apply consolidation. ‘Agriculture makes no difference between state-owned and privately-owned water sources, all it needs is enough water supply positively adding towards production”, says Mr Kiril Stoyanov.